With thousands of service stations having since run dry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has announced a series of emergency measures to address the fuel crisis, including issuing temporary work visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers and suspending competition law to allow suppliers to deliver fuel to rival operators.
The government said late on Monday that British Army tanker drivers had been "brought to a state of readiness" and could be used to deliver fuel where it is needed most.
"If required, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure to help ease pressures caused by spikes in localized demand for fuel," UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement.
The Automobile Association (AA) appealed for calm on Friday after BP was forced to temporarily close some of its stations for the second time in as many months because of the driver shortage. Yet many Brits paid little heed, flocking to service stations in hopes of securing fuel for the week ahead.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel suppliers, told the BBC that as many as two-thirds of the 5,500 service stations operated by its members were out of fuel, with the rest of them "partly dry and running out soon." Social media users have reported long lines at stations across the country, and some motorists on longer trips have been forced to abandon their cars after running out of fuel.
Companies including ExxonMobil and Shell said in a statement released by the government on Sunday they wanted to "reassure the public that the issues that have arisen are due to temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel."
Worker shortages are a growing problem in Britain, which has a record 1 million job vacancies. The shortage of truck drivers has been exacerbated by the pandemic and Brexit, which resulted in tens of thousands of EU nationals leaving trucking jobs and other occupations in the United Kingdom.
According to the Road Haulage Association, the United Kingdom is short around 100,000 truck drivers. Last month, the UK government said that "most of the solutions" to the crisis would be driven by industry, and that it did not want to rely on workers from outside the country.
Read more here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of visas the United Kingdom is offering foreign truck drivers.